From division to unity: The election of the new House speaker

Oct 25, 2023, 9:00 PM

Newly elected U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) delivers remarks with fellow Republican...

Newly elected U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) delivers remarks with fellow Republicans on the East Front steps of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol on October 25, 2023. Utah Rep. John Curtis describes Johnson as a humble man, with a plan to get things done. Chip Somodevilla /Getty Images)


SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Mike Johnson, R-LA, was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the House on Wednesday, seemingly just hours after his name bubbled up as a possibility. 

And Utah Rep. John Curtis told KSL NewsRadio the unanimous vote didn’t come a moment too soon. He said Tuesday started at a low when Rep. Tom Emmer was selected as the speaker designee.

“I sat and listened to my colleagues say, ‘I could never vote for him.’ And then they would list a vote he had taken three years ago,” Curtis said. “I literally heard one of my colleagues (say) ‘I can’t vote for you because you certified the election.’ And it seemed like a real low point that people were becoming ridiculous.”

Over the past three weeks, three other GOP speaker nominees failed to garner enough support to move forward.

But enter Rep. Johnson, a 51-year-old conservative from Louisiana. He’s a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law and was first elected to the House in 2016. Curtis said there was something about him that allowed Johnson to walk into a room filled with division.

“He was able to take that climate in only a couple of hours and secure a unanimous vote — something no one would have predicted could happen.”

So how did it happen?

Ask any motivational speaker, teacher, or business leader what usually precedes success, and they’ll tell you it’s a plan. Curtis said Speaker Johnson has one.

“He put in writing his plan, how he was going to move through the next few weeks how he was going to avoid a shutdown and yet not let the far right people down,” Curtis said. “I think Americans will find that we’ve discovered a little bit of a diamond in the rough.”

It was a bi-partisan agreement to keep the U.S. government functioning that led some House Republicans to call for a vote to remove former speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Curtis did not specify to KSL NewsRadio how Johnson would appease that faction going forward.

But he did point to a personality trait of Johnson’s that may help smooth differences.

“He’s surprisingly humble,” Curtis said. “You would not expect that from the Speaker of the House, as a matter of fact … I think if you look in their job description, you have to be an arrogant-type personality.”


What’s next for Speaker Johnson?

President Biden wants a $106 billion aid package approved and sent quickly to Israel and Ukraine. And there’s the matter of funding the U.S. government past November 17, the last day of the bi-partisan spending bill that cost the last House speaker his job.

But approving spending will be different this time. Johnson has granted one of the demands made by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and instead of voting on one giant funding bill, Johnson said the House will instead vote on 12 individual bills.

According to CBS News, Johnson acknowledged that another continuing resolution may be needed past November 17 to accomplish this goal.

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From division to unity: The election of the new House speaker